Inquest exposes murder as legacy fight continues in London

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A Derry mother was shot dead by a British soldier in her back garden in circumstances which were “unjustified”, a coroner has ruled.

Kathleen Thompson, a mother of six, was killed by a bullet fired into the chest in Derry on November 6 1971.

Two bullets were fired into her by a soldier the British Army still refuses to identify. Mrs Thompson had been standing in her garden in Rathlin Drive, Creggan, as the British soldiers were withdrawing from the area.

Judge Crawford said Mrs Thompson was unarmed and had been banging a bin lid in the traditional manner of alerting neighbours to the presence of Crown Forces in the area.

The coroner said the murder of Ms Thompson, whose children were aged between seven and 18 at the time, had “breached guidance”.

She criticised the soldiers for “shooting into a dark garden in a residential area” when they were not under any threat. She found that the soldier had fired two shots into Mrs Thompson “in circumstances which were unjustified”.

The judge noted the soldier had presented a “contrived and self-serving account” of what happened and said no proper investigation had been carried out into the murder.

Her ruling came on the day of a debate on legislation for a British amnesty for its war crimes in the north of Ireland.

Outside Westminster, relatives of people killed in the conflict held protests in opposition to the British government’s legacy proposals. Parallel protests also took place in Belfast and Derry.

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice said the bill “undermines the rule of law, due process and the administration of justice”.

“This bill will end all investigations, inquests, and police ombudsman’s inquiries. It will prevent all future civil litigation,” he said.

“It will deny families justice.”

Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre said: “It undermines the Good Friday Agreement.

“We call on all those concerned for human rights and social justice to join with us and the families. Everyone is welcome.”

“We make a particular appeal to political representatives from all parties to join with us too in solidarity and to send a very clear message to the British government that their unilateral action in forcing through this draconian bill has absolutely no support whatsoever.”

Relatives of victims of the conflict took part in a special event at Westminster to try to bring the reality of their experiences to the politicians. It was hoped the families’ testimonies could persuade MPs to oppose the British government’s controversial Troubles Legacy Bill.

Noting the ruling in the Thompson inquest, SDLP MP Colum Eastwood said under these proposals, other families would be barred from achieving truth or justice.

“They would not get access to the inquest process. Whatever people may say about things being a long time ago, we have a case today proving that inquests work, that they get truth for families and that families who have had to suffer and argue and debate and campaign for 50 years can get at least some truth out of this process. This government want to bar that.”

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